Data from desktop searches for ads examining 1,000 searches each on the 25 terms from "laptop" to "speakers" to "carbon monoxide detectors" on Dec. 1, 2016 shows that Google ranks among the biggest buyers of search ads on google.com that promote its products, from music service to smart thermostats.
The analysis, from SEMrush for The Wall Street Journal, found that ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared at the top in "the most prominent spot" 91% of the time in 25,000 searches analyzed -- and 43% of the time, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.
At least they did recently, until the Journal shared the analysis with Google on December 15. Apparently, the Journal reports, many of the ads vanished, including nearly all from Google's online store. A second analysis on December 22 showed Google or Nest ads in the top spot on 19% of the searches.
"We have consciously and carefully designed our marketing programs to not impact the ad auction," a Google spokesperson said in an email. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes--set to tougher levels than our customers--to govern the use of our own ads products."
The analysis also shows that searches for
"phones" nearly always began with three consecutive Google ads. All 1,000 searches for "laptops" started with a Chromebook ad, per the Journal.
Searches on google.com for hardware products reveal that the leading top query results for products were usually for Google or Alphabet-owned companies. In the case of carbon monoxide detectors, the searches returned at the top 100% of the time; cell phones, 99.1% of the time; and smart speakers, 100% of the time. (A complete list can can be found here.)
The data and details also highlight what the Journal calls a "rarely discussed" conflict of interest in an industry that contributes about $187 billion to the advertising.
In a detailed post in 2010, Google explains why the company uses its advertising platform AdWords.
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement with Google after companies such as Microsoft, eBay, Yelp and others claimed the search engine used uncompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power to promote its own products.
Android also has come under fire throughout the years, with companies claiming that Google uses its mobile operating system to boost popular products like Google Search and Google Maps.